I love London and couldn’t be happier with my decision to move here. But I called the French capital home for a year and there are, of course, a few things I miss most. Paris’s art and beauty, its glowing streets at night, its hectic markets, the subtle transformation and discoveries I made, and the people I met along the way… These are all things that will keep me going back for more.
There is no doubt that I gained weight living in Paris because, let’s be honest, the food is calling to you from every shop window, street corner and market stall; the overpowering bakery smells making you forget you just ate lunch.
My favorite foodie locale was the Marché les Enfants Rouges. Tucked away off of rue de Bretagne in the 3rd arrondisement, this was where I had my first meal after moving in, and loved it ever since. The customary fresh produce, fish, meat, and flower stands are found here, but so are cuisines from around the world. A Japanese stall sells noodles and sushi to take away, the Brazilian place in the corner makes colorful, fresh juices, and the vegetarian friendly Israeli shop has delicious homemade hummus and falafel. France is more “green” or “bio” than the rest of Southern Europe, and a lot of the fruit and veg stands in this market are 100% organic, as is the soup and salad place by the market’s entrance.
Now, I am going to let you in on a little secret… the best savory crepes in the whole city can be found here. These galettes are bulky, messy, crunchy, gooey deliciousness and not for a quaint, delicate dining experience. But they are freshly made in front of you by a white-haired, eccentric local who likes to fatten his customers up with free mini croissants. The jovial baker has got crepe-making down to an art and flips and flaps them over all while joking with his spectators and posing for the occasional tourist snapshot. There is always a queue, and you might need to drag yourself out of bed early on a Sunday to make it before they close, but believe me, it’ll be worth it.
Marché des Enfants Rouges
9 rue de Beauce,
Metro: Arts et Metiers, Filles du Calvaire, St. Sébastian-Froissart
It’s a warm July evening for Paris and the air is buzzing. Skinny legged-men in cut up t-shirts and leather shoes walk with a confident, steady gait in the direction of Paris’s bobo watering hole: Canal St. Martin. Reflections of groups of young friends glisten on the dark mossy waters, and the clinking of bottles is the music for the evening (unless someone brings a stereo). For a place that was built with the funding of a tax on wine, it is mandatory to bring your own cork screw. But there’s always one not too far off if you happen to forget it. Couples lean over the green, iron bridges that arch across this Parisian haven, as they take in the lights, slurred banter and tree-shaded architecture.
I was fortunate enough to work just a street away from this previously anonymous gem, nestled between Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est in the 10th arrondisement. My friends and I spent many evenings on these banks. It also became a great place for lunch, and on the rare days that the sun was high in the sky, I would escape the break room and take my box of leftovers to sit on the stone ledge, letting my bare feet dangle above the water. I’d watch the canal levels rise and fall as heavy barges navigated the uneven waterway. If there was ever a little oasis in Paris, this is probably it for me.
Canal St. Martin
Quai de Valmy, 75010 Paris
Metro: Republique, Jacques Bonsergent, Goncourt
Walking into Shakespeare & Co. is like walking into a portal. I was transported somewhere else; taken on a literary journey each time I stepped over the threshold. I could forget all the crummy things that were going in the world, or in my day, and the feelings of security, escapism, and calm I felt in this shop would always leave me thinking: everything is going to be okay. There are few places (especially shops) that can have this effect on you, which is why this bookshop will always be my favorite, no matter how many tourists traipse its uneven wooden floors.
I also learnt a lot here. I began by attending some of their evening talks and screenings, until I learnt about Anna Pook’s creative writing workshop. I had begun to crave some creativity in my life, after a few months of working mundane and uninspiring jobs, which is why I decided to sign up. And this was no small decision. I am now embarking on a MA in Creative Writing here in London, and the workshop only cultivated my desire to write more and at a higher level. For all the small, sequential discoveries I have made here, Shakespeare & Co. played an important part in my time in Paris.
Shakespeare & Co. Bookshop
37 rue de la Bûcherie,
Metro: St. Michel Notre-Dame, Cité
Moving to a new place is always hard, no matter how sociable or confident you may be. And meeting people who can make this new place seem more like home is so important. The friends I made in Paris are some wonderful people who I came to call my famille Parisienne and I miss them dearly. I also miss our little rituals: laughs and evening banter over wine, our weekend city explorations and trips to exhibits and galleries; discovering the French way of life as a group of newcomers. Luckily for me, London and Paris are quite seamlessly connected, so there’s little in the way of preventing the occasional visit.